- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

In a world of ultraviolent video games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than the flexing of the cerebrum, there must be a place for children and their parents to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/gaming system. Take a deep breath and enter the ROMper Room, where learning is a four-letter word cool.

Adiboo: Discover Music, Melody & Rhyme (Knowledge Adventure, $29.99) offers an immersive, colorful world filled with characters and dynamic entertainment around every click and corner.

The value-packed two-CD-ROM set holds two separate learning environments, each containing hours of activities and exploration in which 4- to 6-year-olds will make new discoveries every time they play.

One of the first things to accomplish is to create an avatar by combining hair, eye, mouth, eyes, glasses and other facial features. This person allows the child to pick up where he or she left off during the last game session.

On the first disc, an individual travels to Adobe's Playland to meet Robbytock the robot, who has the magical ability to grow fruit trees "as fast as lightning," and the unique suction-cup pooch, Pup.

The player also encounters the title's namesake, Adiboo a cross between a little boy and an elf who has large eyes and a cheerful, encouraging voice.

Now, with a complement of new pals, it's time to investigate the Playland yard, which uses real-time simulations to constantly develop and enhance creativity.

Activities include planting, watering and harvesting vegetables in one garden and flowers in another. As gardeners check back on their work, they see grown plants. If they don't check back from time to time, the garden wilts and withers away.

Budding artists can stop by Adiboo's Playhouse to create pictures using paints and stickers or conquer the Asteroids-inspired challenge Blocks. This game requires quick mouse skills and critical thinking to ping a ball into a series of items using a moving paddle.

The Playhouse also contains Adiboo's kitchen. Wonderful pastries and healthy snacks can be made using the fruit and vegetables that have been grown. Whenever the refrigerator runs out of an item, the child needs to go to the garden and pick more, particularly the wheat used to sprinkle on the windowsill to feed the birds.

One of the best parts of the Playland features a place where junior filmmakers can develop animated masterpieces (complete with sound) by dragging elements, from furniture to people, onto backgrounds that display scenes ranging from the Wild West to a mad scientist's laboratory.

Back at the main yard, a new story unfolds as a little monster of a fellow, Buzzy Gulump, has broken the Singamajig Melody Maker and scattered the pieces all over Adiboo's world. This clever plot device leads into the second CD-ROM.

Now one must travel to Melodica to look through five music-inspired environments and find the missing Singamajig pieces by correctly completing a series of puzzles based on sounds.

Along the way, young musicians discover how to recognize notes, identify music styles and understand basic music theory by listening to beats and matching rhythms with melody and tones.

For example, at Tom Tom Lake, a female rocker sings and dances with the amphibious inhabitants of the waters.

The player listens to familiar nursery rhymes, such as "Alouette," and then watches as two fish characters dance to the beat. The child must choose the fish that manages to keep time correctly.

The frogs at Tom Tom Lake also like to sing a series of note sequences, which requires the player to choose the correct written sequence that matches.

Other areas include the Note Factory, in which careful listening can complete pieces of a story; the Sound Cavern, which teaches musical scales by traversing a frozen labyrinth; and the Bandstand, loaded with playable instruments.

The more tonal skills are honed, the more missing pieces of the Singamajig can be found, leading to a finale of song composition through the creation of melodies, the addition of sound effects and even the recording of voices.

Adiboo: Discover Music, Melody & Rhyme (Knowledge Adventure, $29.99). Hybrid for Macintosh and Windows systems.

Double delight

Here are two multimedia entertainment items for children 5 and older that may guarantee moments of merriment.

• "Donald Duck Goin' Quackers," by Ubi Soft (For Sony PlayStation 2, $49.99. Also available for Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation systems) Walt Disney's famous fowl appears for the first time in three-dimensional glory within this beautifully animated adventure.

When world-famous reporter Daisy gets kidnapped after ruffling the feathers of the evil magician Merlock, Donald with the help of his nephews and Gyro Gearloose must rescue his true love before rival Gladstone Gander gets to her.

Imagine Crash Bandicoot with a beak as the player maneuvers through more than 22 sharp-looking levels across five worlds and avoids such annoyances as thorny branches or confronts villains such as the bombastic Beagle Boys. Not only does Donald show an incredible range of emotions, from happy to berserk, but his moods can help players advance, as when his hyper side gives superstrength.

The constant gyrations of Donald, his patented mutterings and overall colorful carton style really shine with the help of the PlayStation 2 engine. Younger children will fall in love immediately with their on-screen pal, and even mom and dad may sneak a try at conquering Duckie Mountain when their offspring are sleeping.

• "Chicken Run" by Eidos Interactive (For Dreamcast, $39.99) A flock of feathered friends attempt to escape getting fricasseed in one of the sillier, third-person games available for home-entertainment systems.

Based on the the animated, claymation box-office hit of last summer, the adventure plucks the player into Tweedy Farms. Acting as the main character, Ginger (or eventually Rocky the Rooster or the rodents Nick and Fetcher), the player must avoid the evil Tweedys and savage guard dogs to liberate her cooped comrades.

The game combines solving puzzles with collecting pieces to build helpful contraptions while searching a large environment as sneakily as possible. Activities can be as simple as catapulting hens to freedom or as difficult as trying to assemble a flying machine.

Despite a camera shakier than Don Knotts in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," and despite some sloppy graphics, the title gives fans of the movie plenty of egg-cellent action. I may never eat Buffalo wings again.

ROMper Room is a column devoted to finding the best of multimedia "edutainment." Calls, letters or faxes about a particular column or suggestions for future columns are always welcome. Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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